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Exclusive Secret World Interview with Ragnar Tornquist of Funcom

One of the most exciting, upcoming MMOs is undoubtedly Funcom's The Secret World.

Whether it is the inclusion of secret societies like the Templars and the Illuminati, the modern day setting or the unique Investigation missions that call on players to venture outside the game to uncover the games secrets - something about The Secret World has us (and so many others) excited.

We had the chance to sit down with Funcom's Creative Director on The Secret World, Ragnar Tørnquist. We chatted about PvP Warzones and Battlefields as well as the exciting Investigation missions and how players will be able to enjoy The Secret World cooperatively with their friends.

You can read through the full interview below. Enjoy!

C: Okay, so if you can just start with who you are and what you do for Funcom?

Okay, my name is Ragnar Tørnquist and I am the Creative Director and Scenic Producer on The Secret World from Funcom.

C: So, PvP was unveiled at Gamescom, can you talk a little bit about that?

I can; we’ve revealed what we call Warzones, which is one of the three different types of PvP modes we have in our game. Before we talked about the Fight Clubs which are, you know, the most basic, free-for-all PvP stuff happening in the Hubs. It’s basically PvP for fun. And we’ve also revealed, at GDC this year, we talked about Battlefields which are basically mini-games; we have, sort of, capture the flag mechanics, deathmatch mechanics, 5 v 5 v 5 or 10 v 10 v 10 [with the] 3 factions and then we’ve been showing the Warzones. And Warzones are persistent, they’re large-scale, we have well over a hundred players in their at one time. And the point is to capture objectives, and capturing objectives provides your faction with bonuses and buffs.

And that affects not only the people playing in PvP but everybody else as well. So anybody who is part of, for example, the Illuminati faction...when they hold the capture points, they will get the benefits of this. Which makes it a great incentive for people to support their team and support PvP in the game, even if you’re not a PvP player, you’ll see people like, “Go team!”. So that’s really important to that feeling of Global Domination and the rivalry between the three secret societies.


C: Okay, so as far as capture points, have you said how many are going to exist? Are they instanced?

No, I mean, the Warzones are not instanced. They are persistent and there is a single instance of them per server. Because it’s all about holding a certain point and if we instance them, it would lose some of the value. The mini-games, or the Battlefields as we call them, are instanced. They are more, sort of, the fun games you can jump into. But, actually, by playing the Battlefields, you also get buffs and bonuses that will help you in the Warzones. So there’s a great incentive to sending your team to Stonehenge, Shambhala and El Dorado...to fight there, to win those matches, to be buffed up and ready to go into the Warzones.


Now in the Warzones, of course, there’s a cap on the number of people per faction that can be in there, so that there’s an equal balance. As for the number of control points, we’ve shown one of the Warzones, it’s set in this city with a temple in the middle of it and players have to sort of find ways to capture the control points both outside and inside this temple. And there’s a mechanic as to how many control points you have to capture on the outside, before you can capture the control point on the inside and get the bonuses. So, there’s a lot of strategy there...the great thing about having three factions, three sides, is also that it balances itself out a little bit. You know, if one faction is dominant, the other two will automatically want to gang up and get that guy before they start a fight as well.


C: Okay, so can enter the Warzones at any time to gain control?

Yeah,  you can enter the Warzones at any time. It’s an ongoing war that happens 24/7. Everybody will try to get the control points and try to hold on to them but, of course,  holding on to them will be very difficult when the other factions are fighting to get at you. It’s going to shift all the time, it’s going to be quite dynamic.

C: Now, you mentioned factions working together to take down an enemy - is this something that just happens naturally as the need arises or can factions actually join forces as a game mechanic?

Players will, sort of, choose...let’s say the Dragon are holding a control point. The Illuminati and Templars will, of coruse, want to get at the Dragon and will probably, you know, stop attacking each other for a little while until they get the Dragon off the throne. Then they will have to attack each other again to be the one to actually hold the control point. So you’ll see that sort of dynamic war going on.

C: So you guys talked about Investigations a little bit at GDC. Can you talk a little more about that?

Definitely, Investigations are still one of the really unique and interesting things about the game. We have some interesting in-game mechanics to support it as well. Everything from hacking into computers and code-breaking on locks and things like that; we’re also adding an in-game browser so people can go research things without leaving the game.

We still sort of expect players to do research outside of the game, because some of the point of Investigation missions is to create sort of mind space where players, when they’re not even playing the game, they’re thinking, “how am I going to crack that puzzle, what am I going to do, what do I need to look at?” So that, on lunch break at work, they sit and do a bit of browsing to find the answer and be like, “that’s it! I’m going to try that tonight”. So we want to make sure The Secret World occupies as much of your life as possible, we want to make it an obsession.

C: So, in terms of time to solve one of the puzzles, can you give us an example of one that is maybe very complex and how long it took for someone to crack it?

Well, there is one that we have in Egypt which has a lot of heavy math in it, or sort of triangulation and stuff like that and ties into sort of Pythagorean math. Which is...it’s going to take players a long time to figure out that that sort of relates to coordinates on the map. I think we’ve seen that some players really like Investigation missions and spend a lot of time on them, and find them infinitely fascinating. While, other players are like, “Where are my kill goals, where are my easy goals? I want to be told exactly what to do”, and that’s fine because we have missions that support all kinds of different players. Investigation missions are not for everyone and that’s the kind of feedback we get, the same as action missions might be too boring for players who like the more involved missions. So, we’re seeing a good mix but I think in general, people really like the idea of the Investigation missions and the ones we have so far seem to be working quite well.


C: Are there any missions that support co-operative gameplay where you’ll need to have a friend doing one thing while you do something else to complete the task?


Absolutely, yes, absolutely. I mean, first off, you’ll of course see that in dungeons. In dungeons, you know, it’s crucial to have a team of five people or at least four people. But also in some of the missions you will definitely need that, even in Investigation missions where, you know, there might be a puzzle to crack but at the same time, you’ll be attacked by Vampires or Mummies or some other kind of creature. So, part of your team has to hold that off while you’re trying to crack the puzzle.

There are, you know, different ways of doing that. Sabotage missions, for example, are all about trying to avoid trouble. We don’t like to call it stealth, because it’s not like Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell but it’s also about reading the environment, seeing security cameras, seeing patrolling guards and creating distractions. So, for example, Sabotage missions are perfectly viable for a solo player pays careful attention to their environment, if they take their time, if they’re cautious or you can get a group of friends together and say, screw it, we’re just going to go in guns blazing, screw the cameras, the alarms going to go off? Bring it on! There are lots of ways to handle that content. For the most part, most missions are solo-able; not all of the, but most of them are. But at the same there is value for having a team and doing it differently.

C: Okay, so back to the PvP. When you launch the game, are you going to have PvE and PvP servers?

No, there’s no PvP in the open world. In our story, there’s a very strong focus on the secret societies standing united against evil. So, when it comes to fighting the monsters in the world, these guys work together. You can even team up with members of other factions in the game, but when it comes to PvP they are divided, because everyone wants to be the one who controls these locations in the world and gets all the bonuses. And that’s when the gloves come off and the masks come on and people are duking it out in these uniforms.


But, you know, we’re not going to have PvP servers where we bring PvP into the open world because it’s just not right for this game.


C: As far as the bonuses and buffs in PvP; are they more skill-based, resource-based or maybe a mix of the two?

That’s something we’re still discussing, we’re testing out different things. It could be anything from simple XP bonuses for a lot of the players or, like you said, health bonuses or strength bonuses. But, this is stuff we need to test more, to bring more players on board and see how that works and affects the balance in the game. I don’t think we’ll have a final answer until we get a little closer to launch.



C: Okay, great. So, one of the things that makes Age of Conan unique is the ability to build huge fortresses for your clan. Will The Secret World support anything like that?

No, our Warzones are mostly about controlling these ancient relics in the beginning. We’re not going to have any kind of structure building at launch, but we’re definitely looking at modes like that in the future but not at launch.

C: Well, you mentioned you’d get exclusive access to vendors in PvP, do they just appear when you take an area or...

Vendors will actually pop up in the Hubs in the HQ of each faction.

C: Based on what you own, territory-wise?

Exactly.


C: Okay, I understand. So, April is the launch date?

April 2012 is the release date, yeah, it’s exciting. Everybody is ready to get this game out there and to add a lot of players. Everybody should go to http://www.thesecretworld.com to get a chance to be a part of one of our beta phases.

We’ve had external testers since May and we recently went into a second phase of beta and we’re going to have a bunch more, where we keep adding players. And we test a lot of different things; we test PvP, of course, PvE, tech tests, load tests and depending on the kind of computers players have, where they’re located, we’ll be adding on a regular basis, more players to the beta.

C: You talked about gear and clothing, how whatever you’re wearing won’t necessarily change your abilities?

No, that’s correct. So, clothing does not have stats. That’s a big part of, ‘look how you want to look, be who you want to be’, you can wear a t-shirt and jeans or hot pants and tanktop or a big leather coat if you want to do that. Or a ballroom gown, if you want to do that. You’re going to have the same stats on your character regardless, but gear is very important.

Gear includes weapons and these sort of magical implants which you inject or put on your body that increases things like defense rating, attack rating or hit points, you know, whatever we can think of. And that affects your character in a great way and same with the weapons. And all this stuff can be crafted, we are going to have a crafting system. It’s going to be a big part of the player-driven economy. We haven’t talked about crafting yet, or announced anything about it. We’ll probably do that later this Autumn but that’s definitely an important part of the game. And yeah, the gear won’t really affect the way your character looks but of course the weapons are radically different so, you know, that’s going to affect how you’re going to appear in the game.

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Special thanks to Ragnar Tørnquist and Funcom for taking the time to chat with us. Be sure to check out http://www.thesecretworld.com/ for more information on The Secret World!

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